Two strains of fixed rabies virus were examined for their ability to regenerate defective interfering (DI) particles and for possible correlation of DI particle production with the expression of virulence. A plaque-purified stock of the attenuated ERA strain (ERA), which characteristically caused an auto-interfering death response in adult mice inoculated i.c., was serially passed at a high m.o.i. in BHK-21 cells. By the sixth passage, DI particles were regenerated that corresponded in sedimentation velocity and DI/RNA size to the smallest of three sizes of DI particles produced by the parental stock virus. The regeneration of ERA DI particles was not detected during 15 serial high or low m.o.i. passages of infected newborn mouse brain, though the passaged virus consistently elicited an auto-interfering-type death response when assayed in adult mice. The attenuated Flury HEP strain regenerated up to three unique size classes of DI particles during serial passage in BHK-21 or murine neuroblastoma C1300 clone NA cells compared with the one band of DI particles produced by the parental Flury HEP stock virus. The BHK-21 cell-adapted Flury HEP virus failed to kill adult mice when inoculated at high concentrations after two serial passages in NA cells. However, the virus became fully virulent and a single band of regenerated DI particles was visible. Additional bands of defective particles were visible following the third serial passage in NA cells. Single-stranded RNA with a mol. wt. of 0.62 × 10 was extracted from the first DI particle population to be regenerated. This corresponded in mol. wt. to the DI/ssRNA characteristic of the parental attenuated Flury HEP virus. However, in the parental type DI/RNA, partially dsRNA could be isolated in addition to ssRNA. Double-stranded RNA could not be detected in the regenerated DI particles derived from the virulent NA cell-propagated Flury HEP virus. These results suggest that the virulence phenotype of fixed rabies viruses does not depend on the presence or absence of DI particles.


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